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themselves, our capacity for feeling is not. Hence the old lady, finding that the man she deemed a foe wrought her no harm, now gladly veered round and reckoned him a secret friend eager to protect her. All things considered, she found that they told in his favour ; and, hugging this pleasing and comforting conclusion, she trudged steadily onwards towards the eastern end of the faubourg. Half an hour's walk brought her to the spot where the road to the Pantin toll-house branches off from the main street-then, and for fifty years afterwards, one of the loneliest parts of Paris. A keen east wind, rasping the heights of Chaumont and Belleville, shrilled round the hovels that dotted this then nearly uninhabited waste, which with its boundary fences of earth and dead men's bones, seemed the fittest of all refuges for despair and abject poverty. Here, as if struck by the sight that met his gaze, the old lady's "shadow” halted and stood wrapped in thought, his face dimly lighted by the rays of an oil-lamp that feebly battled with the mist. Fear now sharpened the old lady's eyes, and she fancied she discovered an evil look in the stranger's face. Her slumbering dread revived ; and while he stood seemingly lost in moody thought, she glided through the gloom to the door of a low house within a stone's throw of where he stood, touched a spring, and fitted from his sight, swift as a ghost; leaving him with his eyes bent upon the dwelling-a fair type of those then scattered 'mid this wilderness. Its crazy walls of rough: hewn stone, zigzagged with yawning cracks, seemed at the mercy of every gust. The tiled roof threatened to sink beneath its unwonted burden of snow. The shrunken window frames invited the blast to enter. From the casements of the garret, which capped this sorry dwelling, a dim light glimmered, while all the lower windows remained dark as the tomb. With the aid of a rope which did duty for a handrail, the old lady toiled up the rickety wooden staircase leading to this garret, knocked stealthily at the door, and, entering, sank into a chair which an old man set for her.
“ Hide yourself !” she said to him. “ Hide yourself! We hardly ever stir abroad; but when we do, it seems that we are tracked by spies.”
“Has anything fresh happened ? ” asked another old lady seated near the fire.
“ The man who has been prowling round the house since yestermorn followed me to-night.”
Here the three inmates of the squalid garret eyed one another in dumb terror. The old man betrayed least fear-perhaps because he had most to dread-for beneath the weight of crushing calamity or grinding persecution, a brave man begins by preparing for the worst, and deems each day of added life a victory over his evil fate. Meanwhile, it was easy to see from the way in which the eyes of the two ladies fixed themselves on the old man, that 'twas for him, and him alone, they trembled.
“ Why distrust God's providential care, my sisters ?” he said “We hymned His praise 'mid the butchery of Les Carmes.' He saved me then ; reserving me, doubtless, for some fate which duty bids me cheerfully accept. 'Tis of your safety, not mine, that we should think.”
“ No," replied one of the ladies. “What is the worth of our lives compared with that of a priest ? "
“Once driven from the Abbey of Chelles, I thenceforth reckoned myself as good as dead," said the old lady who had stayed at home.
“I have brought the wafers,” said the one who had fared forth “ But hark! I hear footsteps on the staircase."
All pricked up their ears ; but the sound-if sound there weredied away.
“No need to quake even should some one seek us out,” said the priest. “ I'm expecting a trustworthy envoy, who has framed a scheme for crossing the frontier, will call here for letters I have written to the Duke of Langeois and the Marquis of Beauséant, beseeching them to devise some means of snatching you from this land of terror and from the death or destitution that here awaits you."
“But surely you will fly with us?” pleaded the two ladies in accents of dismay.
“My post is there, where are the victims,” replied the priest with a noble simplicity which sealed the ladies' lips, though their eyes spoke volumes of heartfelt regret blended with admiration.
“Sister Martha,” he said to the nun who had brought the sacramental wafers, “our trusty envoy may be known by his replying Fiat voluntas to the word Hosannah !”
" I hear a footstep on the stairs,” cried the other nun, opening a kind of blind cupboard in the garret wall, scarce a yard in height, thanks to the sloping roof.
This time 'twas no false alarm. A man's footstep could be distinctly heard ʼmid the deep stillness. The priest hastily squeezed himself into the hiding.hole, and the elder nun huddled a heap of clothes on him, and shut him in.
At that very moment a double knock at the door struck the poor nuns speechless and helpless with fright. They had both seen some
Sept. 2, 1792. See for interesting narrative Gibbon's Autobiography.
sixty years or more ; and forty of these they had spent in a nunnery, Turned adrift when the convents were pillaged, they resembled hot. house plants to which the open air means death. Twice twenty years of cloister life had utterly unfitted them for any other. The inorning that saw their cells burst open left them appalled at the thought of their recovered freedom. One may readily imagine the stupor into which the events of the Revolution plunged them. Powerless to bring their convent wisdom to bear on the thorny problems of life, they were like heedfully-tended children suddenly robbed of a mother's fostering care. Only, instead of weeping, they prayed. In the presence of the danger which now threatened them they stood dumb and passive, not even dreaming of any other buckler than Christian resignation. The man who knocked put his own construction on their silence, and entered without further ceremony. Judge of their feelings when they identified him as the man who for some time past had been prowling round their dwelling and prying into their secrets ! Still they stood as mice, eyeing him with a troubled curiosity, like a pair of half-wild children in the presence of an utter stranger.
But the intruder, though tall and stalwart, had nothing forbidding in his mien-certainly nothing of the brute or villain. He, too, stood stockstill, leisurely surveying the apartment. His eye first fell on two straw pallets, which served the nuns for beds. In the middle of the room stood a table, and on it a branch candlestick, a few plates, three knives, and a round loaf. A scanty fire burnt in the hearth. In one corner of the room a handful of lean faggots bore further witness to the poverty of its inmates. Both walls and ceiling plainly showed that the roof was anything but rainproof. Three chairs, a pair of coffers, and a clumsy chest of drawers, completed the furniture of this carpetless garret ; but a door hard by the chimney-piece seemed to betoken the existence of an adjoining garret.
The intruder's survey inspired him with a feeling of pity that showed itself in his face. He cast a kindly look at the two nuns, and seemed-truth to tell—full as ill at ease as they. But the awkward silence was soon broken by the stranger, who quickly gauged the mental plight of these poor children of sixty.
“Believe me, citizenesses, I come not as a foc,” he said in a voice he strove his best to soften. “Should any mishap befall you, this hand will have had no share in it. Sisters, I come to beg a favour of you.”
They spoke not, and he ran on: "If you find my presence irksome tell me so plumply, and away I go. But let me assure you that
I am wholly at your service, willing to render any help that lies in my power, and I am perhaps the only man in France who stands above the law, since she has lost her King."
His words rang so true that Sister Agatha-a daughter of the noble house of Langeois—invited him with a courtly gesture to sit down. He received the invitation with a somewhat sorrowful smile, but remained standing till he saw the ladies themselves seated.
“You have sheltered a venerable nonjuring priest who marvellously escaped scotfree from the butchery of Les Carmes, and—”
“Hosannah !” cried Sister Agatha, eyeing the stranger with feverish anxiety as she uttered the test word.
“No, that is not his name.”
“I assure you, sir, there is no priest here,” said Sister Martha promptly.
“ Then you should be more wary,” gently replied the stranger, stretching forth his hand and picking up a breviary that lay open on the table. “I question whether you know Latin, and
He stopped short; for the quivering lips and tearful eyes of the poor nuns warned him that he had overshot the mark.
“Cheer up !” he said in a hearty voice. “For the last three days I have known not only your own names but the priest's, your straits, and generous self-devotion to the Abbé de
“Hush !” cried Sister Agatha, laying a finger on her lips.
“You see, my sisters, that had I harboured the foul design of betraying you, I could easily have worked my will."
On hearing these words the priest sallied from his hiding-place and said to the stranger : "I cannot believe, sir, that you are in league with those who persecute us. What would you of me?”
“I come, Reverend Father, to beg you to celebrate a funeral Mass for the repose of the soul of-of a saintly person whose ashes will never rest in consecrated soil.”
The priest shuddered in spite of himself ; while the two nuns, not yet understanding of what person the stranger spoke, bent forwards and eyed the two men with lively curiosity.
Meantime the churchman studied the stranger's face, and, as there was no mistaking its honest look of heartfelt anxiety and earnest entreaty, he quickly replied: “Well, come back at midnight, you'll find everything ready for the celebration of the only service we can offer in atonement for the heinous crime to which you refer."
The stranger shuddered; but whatever the pang that pierced his breast, it yielded to a feeling of soothing though sombre satisfaction, to judge by the expression of his face as he turned to leave the room
after bowing respectfully to its three inmates. No need to voice his thanks ! Those three generous souls felt them.
Some two hours later he returned, and, ushered into the inner garret, found all in readiness for the stolen service. The old-fashioned chest of drawers, moved from the outer room, and decked with a gorgeous altar-front of green mohair, served for an altar. Above itconspicuous against the bare yellow wall-towered a lofty crucifix of ebony and ivory. Four slin little tapers fixed to the top of the chest of drawers with sealing-wax, shed their faint lustre on the makeshift altar, but left the rest of the garret in deepest gloom. Damp was the Rooring, and through many a chink in the sloping ceiling the keen blast whistled. Naught could be less pompous, yet naught perhaps more solemn than this sad ceremony. A sepulchral silence, ’mid which the faintest cry from the neighbouring high road would have made itself heard, lent a sad and sombre majesty to this midnight scene ; where the grandeur of the spiritual end, in such glaring contrast with the pettiness of the material means, could scarcely fail to beget a feeling of religious awe. One at each end of the makeshift altar, the two nuns knelt upon the bare brick flooring, reckless of its deadly dampness ; and mingled their prayers with those of the priest, who, robed in cope and chasuble, held in his hands a gemstudded chalice of pure gold, snatched, no doubt, from the sack of the nunnery of Chelles. Near this sumptuous ciborium, fit for the table of a king, two tumblers that would have shamed a third-rate tavern held the water and the wine destined for the holy offering ; while a bowl of coarsest earthenware contained the water wherewith the innocent might lave their hands unstained with blood.
Stepping to the altar the stranger sank upon his knees between the two nuns. But at sight of the black crape with which the priestfor lack of other means of indicating the nature of the Mass—had wreathed the chalice and the crucifix, some overpowering recollection rushed across his mind and dewed his broad brow with beads of sweat. This emotion, however, soon yielded to another, not less powerful, but wholly sweet and comforting, as he joined with the other actors in this solemn midnight scene, in pouring forth in one united food their feelings of holy pity. It seemed to them as if they had conjured up in thought the spirit of the martyr king whose mortal frame the envious quicklime had devoured ; and that his deathless soul was present with them in all its saintly majesty as they celebrated these funeral rites without the body of the dead. Surely, there, in the prayers of this priest and these two simple-minded nuns, the Monarchy itself was present. Yea, but perchance there also